The following article was acquired from the ABC7 website and was written by City News Service.
Report on 17M gallon sewage spill places blame for delayed notification on LA County Public Health
LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The failure to more quickly notify the public of a 17-million-gallon sewage spill that ultimately closed beaches from El Segundo to the southern end of Playa del Rey was largely the fault of a division within the Department of Public Health, according to a report discussed by county officials Tuesday.
Workers at a plant operated by the city of Los Angeles’ sanitation department followed protocol in this “once in a career” event on July 11, and only their extraordinary efforts saved the plant in what the report called a “near miss,” the report said.
Personnel there reached out as required to the duty officer at the California Office of Emergency Services.
That state agency shared some of the blame for the county’s slow reaction, failing to make the severity of the problem clear to the numerous federal, state and local agencies they are charged with alerting, according to the analysis by Citygate Associates LLC, a public consulting firm.
According to the Citygate timeline, the OES reached out to the county’s Department of Public Health at 8:11 p.m. the day of the spill with an email saying that “most material was contained on site and ‘some’ had been discharged” into the outfall pipe, giving the impression of a minor event, according to Citygate. That same email was sent to numerous federal, state and county agencies.
However, siloed operations, stale procedures, the lack of a central point of command and coordination within the Environmental Health Program were at the root of the failure to react with more urgency and let residents know about the spill as quickly as possible.
The consultant recommended a number of changes to improve the emergency response of Environmental Health Program personnel together with a requirement for plant officials to immediately inform county agencies of incidents alongside state agencies.
In addition, Citygate recommended redoubling public education efforts to keep debris out of the sewage system, which it called as essential as drinking water and electric power systems.
The board approved [Supervisor Janice Hahn’s] plan for an after action report by Citygate within 30 days. Citygate has provided a number of after action reports to the county, including on the Woolsey Fire that devastated Malibu.
The report on the sewage spill is expected to include more detailed recommendations on new procedures and protocols.